By Sue Minton
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — On Sept. 17, 2012, the day after her 14th birthday, Emily Hayre became a junior firefighter at Bush Volunteer Fire Department.
She grew up in the shadow of family members who belonged to the department and knew she wanted to help the people in her community.
Thirty-seven years earlier, in April 1975, her grandfather, Kenneth Smith, met with 12 other members of the Bush community to organize the fire department. He served the department as chief from 1975 to 1984.
In 1989 Emily’s dad, Keith, became a member and is currently serving as deputy chief. She also has an uncle and a cousin that are members and another cousin who is a junior firefighter.
To become a junior firefighter, a participant must be between the age of 14 and 17, complete a written application, have signed parental consent and the officers of the department must agree to accept them. Training is based on the age of the firefighter and consists of both classroom and hands-on training.
“Some required trainings include safety, first aid and CPR, use of your PPE (personal protection equipment), forcible entry, fire behavior and building construction,” she said.
“Because of my age, my training has been limited to mostly classroom and observation,” she added. “So, it hasn’t really been hard, but you cover a lot of material and information, and it is a lot to remember.”
A junior’s participation on a scene is controlled by the Kentucky Fire Commission and changes with age.
“A minimum of 23 training hours is required before we can participate on the scene of a fire or accident,” she said. “But, I have went to a few fires and one accident scene.”
Emily has received several training hours at the station and attended Regional Fire School last October. She has also had first aid and CPR training. But as a 14-year-old, her participation is limited. “I’m excited to turn 15 in September, so that I can have more hands-on involvement,” she said.
Currently her duties at a scene are to observe, take photographs if possible, roll hoses, and help load the trucks for the route back to the station.
She remembers her first call being a grass and woods fire at a cemetery on Blackwater Road.
“I wasn’t allowed to do anything except observe and take pictures for the fire department. But that first call will still be something I will always remember.”
Members of the department meet every Monday night for training and maintenance on the trucks, equipment and building. During this time, Hayre and the other four junior firefighters help with the cleaning and maintenance and anything else the officers and members ask of them.
Emily said there’s not any one person at the department who has been her mentor. “It’s really just the department as a whole. Everyone has really been willing to accept me and take me in as one of their own.”
Whitney Minton, the first female to become a member of Bush Volunteer Fire Department, has been an inspiration to Emily.
“I think it’s great that Whitney was the first female to join our department. Like me, she has been around it all her life, but her joining as a member definitely opened the door for me and other females. Whitney is a hard worker, she found a way to balance college, work, being a firefighter and even became certified as an EMT.”
And, like Whitney, this North Laurel High School 10th grader finds no problem in balancing her school work and personal life. But, school work comes first.
“We are required to maintain good grades and have to turn in a copy of our report card to the chief,” she said. “But, I also enjoy working on the cattle farm with my dad.”
Emily enjoys farm life. She helps work in the family garden and has spent a lot of time the last two summers learning how to freeze and can vegetables. She also helps feed and care for the baby calves if for some reason the mother can’t. Currently she is serving as reporter for the FFA Club at North Laurel High School.
Once Emily reaches legal age, she plans to become a full member of the department her grandfather helped organize.
“I have been around the department and most of the older firefighters all my life. Firefighting has always been a part of my family and I think it always will be. It’s an honor to be able to serve the people of my community — this is where my family and friends are, it’s where I go to church. It’s one of those things where you hope they don’t ever need you but if they do, then like everyone else on the department, I will be there to do whatever I can.”